Saturday, August 13, 2011


The attitude in Iceland toward whales seems a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, Iceland is one of the few countries with a commercial whaling operation, and the country regularly kills Minke and fin whales. Minke whale is on the menu at many of the restaurants in the capital.

On the other, Icelandic people hand out pamphlets on the waterfront warning tourists away from the whale meat, saying that tourist consumption helps fuel the death of the animals. While whale meat is portrayed as a traditional Icelandic dish, only a tiny percentage of the population (something like 1 percent or 5 percent) actually eats whale regularly, surveys by environmental groups have shown.

We went whale-watching yesterday and the whale-tour companies are also firmly against commercial whaling, according to the pamphlets we saw. We did see many whales, looking just like the one in the borrowed photo above -- the rounded back of a dark Minke whale. We saw about ten of them, our guide estimated.

We also saw schools of mackerel, gannets and other seabirds and one lone puffin, flapping wildly away from our boat. (Apparently puffin breeding season is over, because their nests on one island were all empty.)

From what I've been reading, commercial whaling in Norway and Iceland has more to do with the appetite for whale meat in Japan and the desire by those countries to export products from their whale fisheries. Considering how terrible Iceland's economy has been, it's not surprising that they might turn to that option. I hope it's an unsuccessful ploy, though, and I hope they give it up.

One thing's for sure -- I'm not eating any whale.


  1. I've always refused to eat whale in Norway for the same reasons. The thought of one of those beautiful creatures being harpooned and killed makes me sick! Maybe we need to start re-educating the Japanese...

  2. Glad your whale-watching went well. When I took a tour, we hardly saw anything at all--it was depressing! I highly suggest the rugged jeep tours.

  3. don't let anyone try and talk you into trying hakarl - a traditional icelandic dish and the most disgusting thing i've ever had in my mouth!

    it's not whale but does come from the sea

    at a gathering in iceland i was presented with a plate with little white cubes, i asked the server what it was. she answered "fish".... not mentioning the fish it was "fermented shark" of course i thought "oh, i like fish" so i popped the cube into my mouth, and immediately spit it out but my taste buds were traumatized for quite a while...

    don't know if you noticed puffin on any menus - but that's another 'traditional icelandic dish' - fortunately when the puffin came out at the event i was at which served the hakarl, no one tried to pass the puffin off simply as 'bird'! so i was able to pass the puffin ..... it would definitely fall into my 'cute food' category....and i don't do cute.....

  4. That's another thing added to my bucket list.
    I get all emotional when I see dolphins. Would love to see whales.